Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A Tiny Pronoun Says a Lot About You

Surprising new research from the University of Texas suggests that people who often say "I" are less powerful and less sure of themselves than those who limit their use of the word. Frequent "I" users subconsciously believe they are subordinate to the person to whom they are talking.
"There is a misconception that people who are confident, have power, have high-status tend to use 'I' more than people who are low status," says Dr. Pennebaker, author of "The Secret Life of Pronouns." "That is completely wrong. The high-status person is looking out at the world and the low-status person is looking at himself."
The fifth study was the most unusual. Researchers looked at email communication that the U.S. government had collected (and translated) from the Iraqi military, made public for a period of time as the Iraqi Perspectives Project. They randomly selected 40 correspondences. In each case, the person with higher military rank used "I" less.
People curb their use of "I" subconsciously, Dr. Pennebaker says. "If I am the high-status person, I am thinking of what you need to do. If I am the low-status person, I am more humble and am thinking, 'I should be doing this.' "

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